Thursday, October 27, 2011

Joel Talking to Anna

This is from our trip to Kiawah Island last week.  Joel really loves his baby sister, and you can see a glimpse of it here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Captured by Cam

A few weeks ago, we met up with the wonderful Cami Mitelman to do family pictures.  We hadn't seen her since she took pictures of our first family time with Samuel just five days before he died.  (Some of our favorites are in the left-hand column of this blog.)  Our dear friends Tracy Elliott and Jennifer Conley arranged for Cami to come to the hospital through Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, and though I was really hesitant about it at the time (did I want someone else there during our first -- and probably only! -- time as a family?  did I want to remember Samuel that way -- swollen and sick and not at all looking like the baby he was at birth?  did I want to spend any part of my swiftly diminishing days with Samuel thinking about pictures?  did I have the emotional energy to do it?  did it mean I was giving up hope that Samuel would live?), I was glad we did it as soon as we were at Samuel's side as a family.  And now I am SO glad we did it.  We have a record of our time as the five of us, and it is priceless to me.  I know Caleb and Joel cherish those pictures because they can see themselves with their baby brother -- loving him and touching him, and they can see our smiles and joy in being a family.  Samuel's life wasn't all tears and heartache.  We have proof that it was also joyful and rich and real.  Right next to Caleb's bed, he has a picture of him whispering "I love you" into Samuel's ear.  I can always tell when Caleb's been thinking about Samuel because he moves the picture closer to his pillow when he's especially missing his baby brother.  Those pictures are life-giving and healing for us.  They bless us in tremendous ways.

After Samuel died, Cami offered to take our family pictures again someday, and right then I knew I wanted to do it when we had another baby.  So once we found out about Anna, I asked Cami if she'd still be willing to photograph us.  It was great to see her again.  She's among the few non-hospital staff who ever saw Samuel, and she was witness to a very sacred day of our lives.  I loved seeing her, talking to her (something I didn't do much of that day at Egleston because I was so preoccupied), and just having her be with our family again.  It was a sweet time.  And now we have some great pictures of our new family -- and one of all of us with a picture of sweet Samuel.  What another wonderful blessing from Cami!  Here are some of my favorites:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Expecting Anna

Last week was the one year anniversary of when we found out we were expecting our sweet Anna Pea.  I never blogged about that day, so I thought I would post some excerpts from my journal.

"October 16, 2010

Yesterday morning I found out I'm pregnant!  I, of course, have no idea what will happen.  In no way do I assume this will result in a healthy baby in 9 months.  But I am so, so happy that I even can get pregnant.  Lately I've begun to assume that pregnancy is not in our future, and I feel like I accepted that.  I quit expecting God to grant us a pregnancy, and I was ok with that.  It made me sad, but I didn't feel the need to take it in my hands and force it.  I didn't feel myself resisting God on it.  I felt surrendered.

I didn't sleep well the night before, knowing I was going to take the test in the morning.  After fighting it for an hour and a half, I finally got up early while Bry was still in bed, closed the bathroom door, and took the test.  While waiting for the digital test to spit out its answer, I was pretty sure I had started my period and said out loud, "There it is.  Well, that was a waste of a test."  Just then I looked down at the test on the bathroom floor.  It said, 'Pregnant.'  I was so stunned.  I stood up in a fog and walked to the sink.  When I got there, I started sobbing and sobbing.  I was shaking and gasping for breath and bawling my eyes out.  I was totally, totally shocked.  And I was a mixture of overwhelmed, immensely relieved, grateful, terrified, absolutely amazed I could get pregnant, humbled, and sad.  I wanted to fall on my knees and weep before God for thankfulness, in humility, and with my sorrow over Samuel. 

After crying like that for a good 5-10 minutes, I opened the bathroom door still bawling, and Bryan woke up.  He said, 'Oh, Babe.  I'm so sorry.'  He, of course, assumed I'd learned I wasn't pregnant.  I started to crawl into bed and sputtered out, 'I'm pregnant!'  He sat straight up and said, 'You are?!?  Really?!?'  And then he held me while I cried and cried.  He's excited though cautious, like me.  He's already calling me 'Bella Preggo' like with all my other pregnancies.  We laid in bed for a long time, and once I stopped sobbing, I prayed for us, for this growing baby, and for God to do what He wants to do.

There is a lot to fear, but predominantly I feel truly joyful and peaceful.  I know we'll survive whatever is ahead.  A miscarriage would not be the end of the world, and how I'd love this pregnancy to result in a huge tummy with lots of kicks and squirms and a baby to hold and love in the end!  Oh, Jesus, may it be so!!!  I am so, so grateful to the Lord for allowing me this pregnancy -- even if it's for a short time.  I am thankful for the picture of hope, love, and kindness of God it gives me.  Thank you, Lord, for this pregnancy -- no matter what!  Please keep my heart in perfect peace and my thoughts fixed on You in the time ahead.  And THANK YOU!!!"

I rejoice in our Anna Patricia Apinis, our gift from God.  She is such a part of our lives now, that I can't believe we've only known about her for a little over a year.  How richly the Lord has blessed us by giving her to us.  She is my treasure, my joy, my littlest love, and the delight of my heart. 

I remember so clearly how hard it was to surrender my dream of more biological children.  I struggled and struggled with it -- in some ways it took more faith from me than Samuel's death did.  I saw God's hand so clearly in Samuel's life and death, but our struggle to conceive again just felt laborious and frustrating and empty and endless.  The month we got pregnant with Anna was the first month I felt I had truly laid down my wishes and accepted God's.  I'm sure it was no coincidence that that's when He granted us our desire -- when His desire was more important to me than my own.

And now look what we have!  Our perfect Beauty.  Our little Anna Pea.
Picture courtesy of Cami Mitelman -- post about that soon to follow

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Rejoicing and Mourning

"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." Romans 12:15

I was astounded and deeply touched by the way people responded to Samuel's life and death -- by the way they hurt with us, sincerely grieved the life of a baby the vast majority of them never even met, and cared for us in our sorrow and pain.  People served us in kind, creative, life-giving ways.  They provided us with meals for months after Samuel's death, took our boys to play at their house or to go to vacation Bible school celebrations, gave us date nights out to be together and grieve -- or even try to laugh, watched Caleb and Joel so we could go to grief counseling, wrote us moving and encouraging letters, told us stories of how their lives were changed by our baby son, had our house cleaned for us for several months, bought our groceries and delivered them for just as long, went to their knees at all hours of the day and night while Samuel was alive -- and after his death prayed for our family in our sorrow, arranged to have Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep photograph the boys meeting Samuel so we would have pictures of our only real time as a family of five, made a prayer blanket to lay over our sweet boy while he was in the CICU, made us a goodie bag of our favorite things for our vigils over Samuel, gave us worship CD's to listen to during our long days at the hospital, provided us with gas cards and Chick-Fil-A cards and a lot of cash, went with Bryan to pick out the grave plot, took care of funeral arrangements, put together a beautiful service for our baby boy, fed our extended family after Samuel's memorial service, made donations in Samuel's memory to Children's Health Care of Atlanta or to organizations close to our hearts, gave us unbelievably thoughtful gifts -- a gorgeous painting of the ocean called "You Sustain Me," necklaces with Samuel's name or initials on them, a collage of Samuel pictures, a hand-knitted shawl with symbolism for Samuel, a paving stone with "Samuel Erik Apinis, August 2009, Caleb and Joel's Brother" in a garden for babies who have gone to Heaven, a tree to plant in our yard.  Three different, amazing beach places were offered to us for a week free of charge (all of which we went to!).  The list goes on and on and on.  I was flabbergasted by the kindness of our friends -- and in some cases strangers.  It gave new and rich meaning to the verse in Romans, "mourn with those who mourn."  I felt so cared for, so uplifted, so supported, so loved.  I knew we were not alone.  I knew what the body of Christ was supposed to be because I was experiencing it firsthand. 

When we found out we were expecting Anna and shared our wonderful news, I was again touched by people's response.  They were genuinely thrilled for us.  Two sets of friends put on amazing showers for me.  Bryan regularly came home from work bearing gifts for our coming girl.  A couple from our small group painted a dresser for her nursery.  Once Anna was born, we were flooded with kindness and well-wishes.  Within 24 hours of Anna's birth, 17 people came to visit us at the hospital.  We were inundated with baby girl clothes, blankets, and stuffed animals.  Four different neighbors came knocking on our door bearing adorable outfits and gifts for our Anna Pea.  People fed us three meals a week for 7 weeks.  Anna's great grandma crocheted her a blanket, my high school friend Brigid knit her a sweater, and a new small group leader Bryan met with sewed her two beautiful dresses and made her a matching diaper bag with a picture of Anna and her birth stats attached.  A friend ordered a handmade owl for Anna's room.  We've been downright flooded with gifts and love and joy.  It has been amazing to have so many people rejoice in our Anna and share in our happiness, people who "rejoice with those who rejoice."

As we've experienced both halves of Romans 12:15, it's been a double blessing.  To have a community to fall back on in our sorrow was comforting, safe, and freeing.  It enabled us to have bad days and know we weren't alone; there were people to fall back on, people praying for us, people to help fill in our gaps.  And now to have so many sharing in our joy, loving Anna with us, wanting to know about her -- it's beautiful and rich and increases our joy.  We are so grateful to the many people who have made the last two plus years so much better than they would have otherwise been, who have mourned with us and now rejoice with us.  We can't thank you enough!